{Couples} cautious of marriage ceremony ceremonies after a pandemic


Many of the ceremonies taking place this year are postponements from last year.

As spring 2020 approached, Event Manager Mary Rowen prepared Paicines Ranch’s biggest wedding season in years. The venue on 13388 Airline Highway in Paicines had already booked 21 weddings for the year.

When a couple drove to Paicines Ranch from Minnesota for their wedding on March 21, many businesses across the country stalled due to the rapid spread of COVID-19.

The entrance to the Paicines Ranch event barn, which is typically used for event cocktail hours, is also an additional table space that the venue can use for events. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.

“That poor bride, she had everything with the date on them and everything was pre-ordered,” Rowen recalled. “She lived in Minnesota, but her entire family was from Hollister, so she had shipped all of her things [to Paicines Ranch]. We had kept all of their wedding things here for two years. “

Rowen had to postpone the March 21st event – and numerous others – to fall. “We all thought things would be safe by then,” she laughed.

As autumn approached, Rowen saw COVID-19 continue to spread and San Benito County’s risk levels changing frequently. The venue then decided to cancel the remaining events for the year.

The wedding coordinator for Gardens of San JuanBly Morales faced similar circumstances when the restaurant on 115 Third Street in San Juan Bautista was forced to cancel its events for the remainder of the 2020 season.

Behind the Jardines de San Juan restaurant there is an extensive garden and terrace for outdoor events. Photo courtesy Jardines de San Juan.

“We were booked for 2020 every Saturday from March to October,” she said. “We had about 45-50 events that had to be postponed due to COVID. We thought it would only be six weeks; maybe six months. So I got a crash course on postponements, ”she joked, noting that some weddings had to be postponed twice. “It was very devastating.”

Jardines rebooked 95% of their weddings postponed to 2021, according to Morales.

“Cultural ceremonies were still allowed, but not gatherings,” Morales said of Jardines’ policy. “It’s a fine line to run in this industry. You have to be aware that people are comfortable and welcome, but you also want to keep people safe. “

So far, Paicines Ranch has seen a decrease in the number of weddings booked for 2021.

The Paicines Ranch barn has always had good airflow. The Paicines Ranch barn. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.

“Where we’d probably have more than 21 weddings, we only have seven for the coming season,” said Rowen. Six of them were postponed from 2020.

“There’s a chance we can get a few more this fall, but I think people are still hesitant.”

According to all safety protocols, the Paicines Ranch was able to host a wedding during the pandemic: the one postponed from March 21, 2020.

The new filled area allows guests to sit outside and at the same time be part of the celebrated events.  Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu. The new filled area allows guests to sit outside and at the same time be part of the celebrated events. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.

That year, on March 20, the patient couple witnessed the wedding they booked two years earlier. The guest list was reduced from 150 to 50 people; The ceremony took place outside and the reception took place in the barn. The couple had to create a seating plan in which only household groups were seated at the same table. Guests were asked to wear masks unless they were eating or drinking, and plumbing stations were set up inside and outside the barn.

“For the bride it was her third date,” complained Rowen. “They really wanted to stay near this weekend, so we called the state health department two weeks earlier and said we could follow restaurant guidelines. A week before the date, we went from the purple to the red level. At this point, we could put 25% indoors. The barn can accommodate 250 people. With 50 people we were able to clear them all out. ”

Although Jardines did not host wedding receptions during the height of the pandemic, private events were organized. However, the restaurant followed strict guidelines and only delivered groceries. “There were no staff involved – basically it was like placing a take-away order,” Morales said.

When Jardines is hosting events again – they’ve booked 60 for this year – household groups can only sit together at tables.

“Guests have to wear masks when they get up from their table,” added Morales. “We can have up to 250 people when it’s outside. If more than 100, guests must show a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination. “

The food is served to the guests in contrast to the buffet. Currently, Jardines de San Juan only books outdoor weddings and receptions.

New and upcoming wedding venues like Swank Farms‘Bonnie’s Barn is set to open its doors after waiting months for California to give the go-ahead for indoor events.

The entrance to Bonnie's barn is a sight for sore eyes, with a beautiful flower garden at the entrance.  Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.The entrance to Bonnie’s barn is laid out with a flower garden at the entrance. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.

“We wanted to diversify more,” said Dick Swank (owner of Swank Farms) of his pumpkin patch and farm attraction.

Five truckloads of wood from Post and Beam in Nebraska helped build Bonnie's Barn.  Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu. Five truckloads of wood from Post and Beam in Nebraska helped build Bonnie’s Barn. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.

In January 2018, approval was granted to build a barn and ceremonial grounds on the property at 4751 Pacheco Pass Highway in Hollister. Construction of the barn began in March 2020 and was completed last month.

Bonnie Swank “unfortunately didn’t see the grand finale,” said Dick of his wife, who passed away in January. “She basically created this with her design team.”

Couples can perform ceremonies in front of the barn or in front of the Gabilan Mountains. Cocktail hours can be held outdoors, followed by dinners in the barn.

Bonnie Swank studied clothing design in college, which led to various jobs in fashion. Her talent for design brought a new element to Swank Farms. According to Dick, the idea and implementation of Bonnie’s barn was hers.

“We’re going to fill a void here,” he said.

The bridal suite on the second floor in Bonnie's barn.  Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.The bridal suite on the second floor in Bonnie’s barn. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.

Swank Farms wedding coordinator Josh Villegas said the venue will follow suit as well state guidelines The upcoming wedding season is slated to start in July. As with Paicines Ranch and Jardines, policies like social distancing, occupancy restrictions, and assigned seating apply to families and households.

“Most couples plan to hold their events outdoors for the safety of loved ones,” noted Villegas. “However, Bonnie’s Barn can open all windows and sliding doors to allow a thorough flow of air.”

Although the ceremonial location at Swank Farms is still in its final stages, Villegas said weddings are already booked for this year and next.

“The pandemic has affected many businesses and families in the US,” he added. “We hope that with the opening of the state we can bring people together in a safe, controlled environment to continue celebrating the milestones of love and life.”

At the time of this writing, San Benito County was in the Orange animal (moderate).

For current guidelines for places of worship / church ceremonies, click Here.

BenitoLink is a non-profit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team works around the clock during this time if precise information is required. It’s expensive to produce local news, and community support keeps the news flowing. Please support BenitoLink, the San Benito County News.